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Only 3.4% of US adults have written a blog post in the past 30 days and only 10.1% have visited a blog, but bloggers still appear to be wielding a disproportionate amount of influence online, according to new findings from Mediamark Research & Intelligence (MRI).

MRI found that the heaviest activity among blog browsers and writers occurs in the 18-24 and 25-34 age brackets. Adults ages 18-24, for example, are 118% more likely to have written a blog in the last 30 days than the total adult population.

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The incidence of both visiting and writing blogs declines consistently in the higher age ranges, MRI added. Just 6.4% of adults aged 55-64 visited a blog in the last 30 days while only 1.3% of them wrote a blog.

FTC Lightning Rod

Despite the relatively small number individuals who actually blog or read blogs, the potential impact of blogs on? consumers has nonetheless prompted the US government to tighten rules about product review disclosure.

In early October, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) proposed new rules governing endorsements and testimonials in advertising. These rules would mandate disclosure by bloggers of compensation by marketers whose products or services they review. The new restrictions, which would bring internet regulations more in line with print and TV, have ignited debate over how much control the government should exert in the blogosphere.

“This is the latest evidence of the impact a small group of people can have on society at large,” said Anne Marie Kelly, SVP of marketing & strategic planning at MRI. “The influence of blogs on mainstream media reporting has long been clear and now the government is taking steps to ensure consumers know the motivation behind blog product endorsements and recommendations. Yet, relatively speaking, very few consumers read or write blogs.”

Blogs Increasingly Influential

Despite the small number of bloggers, some recent studies support the idea that? blogs and online product reviews are gaining steam among various demographic groups, including moms. Moreover, a study by Jupiter Research and Buzzlogic found that blogs influence consumers more than social networks, while findings from Rubicon indicated that online word-of-mouth (WOM) is second only to in-person recommendation. In 2008, eight in 10? holiday shoppers reportedly read web reviews of products, a number likely to increase this season.

While the growing influence of blogs and social media is unquestionable, many marketers will ultimately need to find the right balance – in both tone of communications and media placement – among brand-building, subtle recommendation, and sales. A study by Q Interactive found that 75% of US women are uninfluenced by brands on social networks.

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